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Book Review
He 111 Units In The West
He 111 Kampfgeschwader In The West
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:

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He 111 Kampfgeschwader In The West
Series and number: Combat Aircraft * 91
Author and Artist: John Weal
ISBN: 978-1-84908-670-7
96 Pages

This is book number 91 in Osprey 's "Combat Aircraft" series, which provides comprehensive histories of fighting aircraft and their crews. It features scores of black and white photos, 30 color profiles, and many personal accounts.


Ernst Heinkel's He 111 was the mainstay of World War Two German bomber forces when the war began. Die Spate (The Spade), an all-round elegant design with elliptical airfoils, proved with Legion Condor over Spain that it was superior to the Junkers 86 and Dornier 17. It was originally designed in the mid-1930s as a fast airliner that could be easily adapted for the bombing role and more than 700 were in service with Kampfgeschwadern when Germany started The Second World War. A tough bird of prey with great performance high or low, the Heinkel 111 star shone brightest when they were devastating Poland, France, Norway, and the Low Counties.

Performance came at the price of weak armament and armor. Invulnerable He 111 was not. Vulnerabilities glimpsed early became glaring during the Battle of Britain when almost half the Heinkel force was lost. Night time became the right time for the five-year-old design during The Blitz. Still a useful design, He 111s filled a number of roles including torpedo bombers against convoys, reconnaissance, and finally the first ALCM platform, firing V-1 Doodlebugs.

Author and artist John Weal brings us the story of Die Spate over the western theater with great knowledge and archival support. He 111 Kampfgeschwader In The West is presented to us through 96 pages in eight chapters, an appendices, color plates commentary, and an index.

    3. POLAND


Development of the aircraft and some tactics are explored. Kampfgeschwader histories are touched upon. By mid-1942 Heinkels were almost non-existent over England, indeed the last ‘111 lost over England, ‘6N ER’ of 15.KG 6, fell onto British soil the night of 7/8 September 1942, victim of a Havoc nightfighter. The curtain fell on He 111 operations on 14 January 1945 after an air-launched V1 hit Romford, Essex.

Very interesting are the many first-hand accounts, such as a stormy early evening anti-ship scramble over the North Sea:

    We head for the scene of the action at top speed. It's dark in the cockpit now, the only illumination the soft glow of the lights on the instrument panels. Then, without warning, we are bathed in a brilliant white glare as two streams of fire shoot past us. We've been spotted! The pilot hauls the stick back into his stomach and we climb into the clouds. As we prepare ourselves for battle the clouds part again - and there below lies the enemy! It's a fantastic sight - about 25 ships heading southwards at top speed. Against the sombre grey surface of the sea they are nothing more than tiny black shapes, but trailing behind each of them is the matt shimmer of a broad white wake. In the van is a larger vessel, probably a heavy cruiser, while to right and left of the convoy weave five destroyers.

    We quickly decide to attack from astern, the unprotected side of the convoy. We go into a wide sweeping curve. The ships disappear beneath our left wing. Only the reflected flashes of the flak bursts in the clouds around us betray the presence of the enemy. We complete our turn. The same gap in the clouds now lies directly ahead of us again. The bomb aimer is glued to his sight as the convoy slowly unwinds beneath us like a reel of film. Fiery strands of tracer reach up towards us.

    Bombs away! The pilot makes a sharp turn. Pressing my face against the glass of the cockpit window I see the explosions far below.

A generous portion of the text is accounts from aircrew and reporters. They greatly enhance the book; many books chronicle the machines so it is refreshing to read the stories of the men who were there.

As great as this book is, only the faintest mention is made of He 111 torpedo bombers. And no accounts of their missions or record are given.

Photographs, Art and Graphics
With the exception of the cover art by Mark Postlethwaite, Mr. Weal is also the artist of the 30 full-color profiles. Although many Luftwaffe bombers did wear bright theater markings later in the war, He 111s in the west wore rather uninspiring finishes. Conservative unit badges, aircraft numbers, and command stripes were the norm. However, some crews added ‘nose art’; one photo shows the vertical stabilizer painted to memorialize the crews’ pet, KIA. All the same, the profiles are of high quality.

He 111 action was well photographed and an excellent assortment is included. Included are in-action shots from the German planes. Several are well-known. Many may be in print for the first time. As such, the photos run the gauntlet of studio quality to grainy amateur exposures. They include personal portraits, images of Heinkels on airfields, and action shots. Not surprising, many are of wrecked and downed He 111s. For modelers and dioramaists, several show shot-up bombers with fascinating damage – B-17s weren’t the only bombers to bring their crews home with chunks blown off! All of the photos support the text.

He 111 Kampfgeschwader In The West chronicles one of my favorite Luftwaffe bombers. Although I am disappointed with the lack of torpedo operations, I think these will be covered in a title concerning Mediterranean operations or against the conveys to Russia. Mr. Weal is fluent in German and has an immense amount of source material, and this book demonstrates that. I am particularly impressed with the number of crew accounts. This is a concise, easily read account of the He 111 war over Western Europe. The supporting art and graphics are excellent. I can certainly recommend this book.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: A concise, easily read account of the He 111 with many crew accounts. Great gallery of aircraft profiles and photos.
Lows: No mention of He 111 torpedo bomber operations.
Verdict: Fans of He 111 operations will find this a worthwhile addition to their library.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-84908-670-7
  Suggested Retail: $22.95 £13.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Apr 01, 2012

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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